How to Make Dandelion Wine (and any other you can think of!)

“Honey, you want to harvest these dandelions before I mow?” my husband called out.  Why, I didn’t even know the dandelions were here yet, and there they were in lovely carpets of gold; their lion manes of spring feeding the bees and dotting the yard with color.  I love dandelions.

Using my thumbnail, I simply pop off the tops of the flowers.  Like a little bee myself, I flit from flower to flower.  I filled a quart jar and a half and still left some in the garden beds for the honey gatherers.  The next thing you want to do is to pour the golden flowers into a paper bag and leave it on the porch on its side.  This allows the stragglers to escape.  No one wants ant wine.

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Wine is, in its essence, fermented sweet tea or juice with yeast that feeds off the sugars turning it into a delightful and medicinal drink.

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Bring flowers, one peeled orange, and 16 cups (1 gallon) of water to boil.  Turn off heat and cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

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Strain into a gallon container used for wine making.  Leave a few inches headspace. You will have some tea left over.  Add 4 cups of sugar (I prefer organic, unbleached, raw sugar) and 2 cups of brown sugar (molasses is what makes it brown).  Stir to dissolve.

Dandelions taste particularly good with orange and caramel notes.  I like to add orange extract and butterscotch extracts when making dandelion jelly.  In this case, we are using fresh orange and brown sugar to create those notes.

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Let cool to 90 degrees then add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine yeast.  Stir.  Replace lid and carboy.  Pour a smidge of vodka into carboy to specified lines.  Let sit in a cool corner and bubble away.  It will bubble (the yeast is eating the sugar) for 10 days to 3 weeks depending on what kind of wine you are making.

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When the bubbling stops then it is time to siphon the wine (all but the bottom 1/2 inch of sediment) into super clean bottles.  Place in root cellar for 6 months to a year or more.

You can use any fruit or herb to make wine.  If there is enough juice and sugars in the fruit (like in grapes) then you just add yeast to the juice.  Most things will be made into a strong tea like the above recipe as well as my chokecherry wine and rosehip/lavender mead.  Have fun and experiment.  Use 4-8 cups of sugar.  Use 1/4 or 1/5 of a teaspoon of wine yeast, red or white.

My chokecherry wine was pretty dang strong after a year, but after two years, lord it was smooth, and I highly wished that I hadn’t given away all of the bottles!

Making Rosehip Meade- part 1

Meade, which is honey wine, is one of the oldest beverages noted in history.  It’s beginnings simply a way to preserve the harvest.  A way to make medicine.  When the water wasn’t safe to drink, alcohol was a safe drink.  Beer and wine are simply fermentations, preserving techniques.

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The number one task for a homesteader is to get everything done timely.  One can’t wait too long or we miss the opportunity.  Rosehips should be harvested just before frost.  However a few days after frost is when I gathered my basket and began to harvest the delicious fruits.  Rose hips are the bulb left after the rose is gone.  It is ready when it turns red.  The fruit is one of the highest sources of vitamin c.  Their medicinal quality is that they are an effective anti-inflammatory and really nice for joints and arthritis in the winter months.

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As it would happen, I missed my chance by a bit but did manage to harvest a cup and half of rosehips.  As I passed the fragrant lavender hiding beneath a pile of leaves, I couldn’t help but snip a bit of that too.  The intention was to make rosehip wine.

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As I decocted the rosehips, I tried to figure out the ratio to make a smaller batch of wine with my humble two cups of herbs when I thought of honey.  That would be delicious with it.  Then I realized I could make Meade and the herbs will just make it better.

Rosehip Meade

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of rosehips and 1/2 cup of lavender stems and leaves.  (You can use any herb or berry) with 4 cups of water.

Boil for 10 minutes.  Smash with a potato masher a few times during the process and at the end.  Put lid on and let sit for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, dissolve 4 cups of honey in 11 cups of very warm water.

You can get a jug and lid with a carboy (the nifty aerator thing) at a beer and wine making supply shop or online.

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Strain herbs through a sieve lined with cheesecloth.  Pour juice and honey mixture into a gallon wine making jar.  Leave a little space from the top (see picture) to allow air flow and bubbling.  Add 1/5 of a package of white wine yeast and stir well.

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Replace lid and add carboy.  Pour enough vodka or rum into the carboy to the lines as a disinfectant.  (Leave it in there.  The air bubbles through it.  Most recipes call for a chemical but I’d rather use alcohol.)  Set on counter out of the sun for 4-6 weeks until bubbling stops.

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I have noticed that red wine yeast really puts on a show, and the white wine yeast is a bit more subtle.  As long as everything goes well, we will meet back here to bottle it!  We will be enjoying it by our Midsummer party!